Last year saw a significant spring clean shift in our house. Marie Kondo played a prominent part in that. The idea that one can – “should” – reduce the amount of tat in one’s life spoke to many feeling burdened by material accumulation. We have been conditioned to want and get and keep stuff. Kondo’s notion of making room only for things that inspire joy was a useful starting point for me. Treating the items you do have and need with greater reverence… my clothes now sit in neat and ordered rows, rolled snug, and nestling proudly in their drawers. It does feel better.

Backlash occurred, as it does. Some rejecting KonMari express resentment at the idea that they might be hoarding now redundant signifiers rather than curating a challenging collection of something or other. Mainly booklovers, that.

What about things that don’t spark joy, but are needed? And what is ‘joy’, anyway? It’s always sensible to question terms of reference… I didn’t quite get the book aspect finished.

Backlash following backlash, maximalism is the new minimalism is the new maximalism. Inhale, exhale. The seasonal cycle of must haves and must get rids. Yeah, Marie Kondo selling stuff for you to have in your newly-decluttered living spaces was a hilarious, eye-rolling, predictable outcome. For me, I’d just dug the basic idea and gone with it. There was no feeling of personal betrayal (“Just for a handful of silver she left us… just for a tuning fork rose quartz crystal!”). Everyone’s got a gig of some sort. A Marie Kondo catalogue existing is not an idea that negates the one about getting rid of shit you don’t really need.

Still, if KonMari Method is tainted goods now, other brands are available. Döstädning! This popped up in my timeline today, for some reason I can’t quite place… Well, here we are in March 2020, and many people are confronting their own mortality, and the fragility of our personal ecosystems. This Scandi version seems on message for decluttering in a plague era. Getting rid of shit you don’t really need with a pine box veneer of northern European pragmatism, a found in translation term. KonMari with added morbidity.

Today, we were contemplating being stuck in the house for indeterminate lengths of time. Thoughts returned to what’s on the shelves, what’s defining us with its presence. Associated notions of cocooning… what species of lepidoptera might unfurl its wings from such matter?

Do books make life worth living? For sure, but all these specific volumes?

Just one of five bookcases too. In the UK, outside, while not yet fully sprung, spring – time traditionally associated with cleaning – is uncoiling. Blossom. The leaves are out on the elder. And you cannot take any of it with you.

“We need to start articulating our utopias, articulating what needs to be burned and what needs to be saved.”

Shabaka Hutchings, NY Times interview

Feeling combination of dead folk scene Bob Dylan meets Liu Cixin in a MMOG Myst reboot.

Among the terms of reference: title nod to 1990s hopes that, by recognising ways archonic structures are used to sell things, and the ways they work to enforce certain ways of thought, what it might be possible to reroute some or any of it to combat it, to enact constructive modes of being.

FX: Talking Heads loop – ‘still waiting’.

Meanwhile, looking about the wreckage, incredulous. Gesturing at the device:

‘Einstein never said Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results he just thought it while visualising light beam rides and scrolling his feeds.’
‘ok boomer’.
‘it’s 2020 but there’s an absence of vision?’
All glances over flatscreen spectacles, projections on the lenses, shaking the heads, murmuring ‘far out’, then heading further in.

There’s a different buzz from the phone. 24 hour party line people shift working the no help desk. Stupid questions inviting snappy answers. It is correct now to speak only of spectrums rather than binaries: press one for yes, press two for no. Add more here: after much consideration I wish t’be considered as opposed to taxonomies and fonder of metaphor.

Flipping the handset across the sofa in a caffeine haze of wtf emojis. Unable to express adequately without cartoon faces. Ehh, plus ça change, doc! Content variance is all. Febrile nightsweats still occasioned by vistas of disaster. In the dream cafe, chalkboard lists today’s special: cream of disease and climate catastrophe. Waking inclined to enthusiastically welcome the blood and fire just to rid us of this incessance.

Ah, the old songs are the best! And all the new ways it’s all infinitely worse are all old too. An apocalyptic strain… the same as it ever was (same as it ever was).

Nah, feelin’ groovy really. Actual mood: increase the peace. Keeping it in mind, manifesting it in the manifestos. Action is the new reaction? Much remains tentative. That moment in theoretical experiments where you just have to start smashing particles off each other. Hoping something doesn’t split fabric
(choose: 13 for tentacles spilling in from the 11th dimension; 69 for lunges in tight velvet trousers; 23 to use the Light Spell from the Rockworm tribe).

Culture jamming still/now fits to describe what seems – SEEMS – increasingly-needed action.

Ai, me! “Theemeth” – for tho ever it wath!
Exeunt Sylvester, pursued by a Bard.

Meanwhile, more FX: strong signals from the global work state. Soundclash w/counterdisinformation. Get over here, stand over there. Listen, does anyone actually want anything doing? Concentrate and ask again later.

Whistles of bandwidth shifts. Taking inspirations where one can. Pirate radio vibes via soundcloud, bandcamp, text scrolls by from the idles of blogging (yes! to typos), to the republic of newsletters, to the twittersphere… in some sense circuit diagrams, ever increasing circles in water… surface tension movements?

Another curator fielding correspondence: something about lost marbles, sordid details to follow.

Feels like everyone’s got a newsletter. We all saw the news.

He’s behind you!

All aforegoing writing has had its place and day. Skins litter the sandy floor of the terrarium. The case is closed. Something dimly glimpsed fades out of view.

dig

Liner notes for the difficult first album.

MMXX lends itself to lines drawn in sand, scratched on walls in northern Britain. This like every year requires you do awake your faith. Lean into it.

Dial shifts again. Hey look! Kojey Radical just read my mind:

I can’t go back to feelin’ like I wanna die, feelin’ like I’ll never fly

Looking about for something to say to mark 300 days since last orders, that doesn’t involve referencing a certain film…

So I was turning over the maths of it and there it is: 60 sets of five-bar gates tallied on the wall, next to J4M and various pithy obscenities concerning the current state of politics in the UK. ‘Looks like I picked the wrong year to quit drinking!’ Brief pause, eyebrow movement.

repeat

The implication of viewing it in these terms is, though – as I noted fairly early on when I started writing about this in February 2019 – that something is being denied. That there is some sort of sentence being served, time done for crime done.

I don’t find those a useful way of thinking.

The difficulty of not-drinking-alcohol in the society I’m in (the UK) is how the pervasive normality of it makes it near impossible to explain in positive terms. Still can’t think of a way to phrase it without sounding evangelical. ‘I’m spending a year sober’ sounds relentlessly po-faced, enthusiastically well-scrubbed and twitchy of eye, with an added hint of being perched on a particularly lofty horse.

I’ve become comfortable talking about a dry life just as something I haven’t done before. People seem to accept the challenge aspect of it quite readily, if slightly uncomprehendingly. Someone I was in conversation with recently said that they did a booze fast twice a year, for a couple of months at a time, though admitted they usually stopped because they got bored with it. I quite like ‘booze fast’, even if it carries the connotation of breakfast (of champions).

It feels good, though! I don’t feel anywhere near the levels of dreads about mundane matters like, say, getting up and going to work, that I did when I used to drink lotsobooze to quell those dreads.

And, it’s not something I feel like I’m getting bored with, yet. Maybe there are dark shadows flitting about the mirrors that I’m disregarding (pause for Stephen King-ish italicised chuckle). I don’t mean periodic nostalgia for the sting of a decent malt whisky, or the contemplative pleasures of an afternoon pint in a quiet bar. The glinting golden glow softening the edges.

Those are quite enjoyable phantasms, really, partly because as moments they depart quite readily anyway, and mostly because I recognise them for what they are: flowers with serpents underneath, a first beguiling glimpse into a somewhat hazy and increasingly threatening upside down, in which the encroaching darkening evening would inevitably lead through more measures into messiness, clouded mornings of self-recrimination, and so on and on, rinse and repeat, miserably scratching off lines on breezeblocks.

There they are; regard was had for the dark shadows. Cooee! (shadowy tendril waves back as it slurps in reverse into the mirror)

Having regard, I would say, at this stage of my process, works for me. It’s an acknowledgment? Not of something missing but of something positive revealed.

So, yes, still keeping a tally, but not to the extent that that becomes another thing to carry about, a self-imposed sentence, a punishing regime. This is not Sparta.

1st October 2019 appears to be a time earmarked for considering habits of consumption.

Media consumption… In an interesting series of tweets, unrolled here, Venkatesh Rao suggests leaning into, rather than withdrawing from it. I found it quite an instructive read. I would not go so far as to say I have been waldenponding, but I’ve not been leaning into it. If our contact with the Global Social Computer In the Cloud (and Rao is right; there might be a snappier term for it) lends us oracular agency, I am at present mainly a scanner darkly muttering about it all being a bit complicated. Concentrate and ask again later.

However, having enjoyed an extended period of sequesterment, it feels right to announce a farewell to digital hermitry. Perspective shift. There is plenty to share, perhaps dependent on handling a complex system of holding patterns correctly, but shared it should be, not stacked.

Today it’s just sincere good luck wishes to all people starting Stoptober, or Ocsober, or SoberOctober, or whatever your chosen variant name for NOT BOOZING til November might be.

It may seem you are in some sort of defensive retreat from something, but you are in fact going for enthusiastic gonzo immersion in something else (to paraphrase Rao, again)…  and you will feel better for it if you stick with it.

I’ve been holding off on posting anything alcohol-related, waiting for something worth saying about it, and here it is: 184 days.

The story of stopping began earlier this year (check out the Booze tag). Lots of those first posts were foundation stones; some laid carefully, placed with precision, some just tipped out and left where they landed. There’s a bit of biography, a fair bit of working through ideas about process and motivation. I spent a month or so writing my way out of something and into something. Finding myself inhabiting a different kind of mindset, kind of one I always had in mind but maybe didn’t feel set on, was where a need to write about it all so much fell away.

Perhaps my motivations altered.

“…distressing memories succumb especially easily to motivated forgetting”

– Freud

There have been a lot of associations with drinking bubbling up. I have been intending to document them (a richly-stocked draft folder attests)… but it all felt a bit too personal. As the above quotation suggests, it’s quite easy to ignore “that stuff”, seal closed a door and move on. That stuff beyond the symptoms (a constant sense of inability; feeling bloated in a vast, round number of ways; impoverishment (same); self-negation…)

While I have got on pretty well with being a sober person – lots of exercise, and diary, and making music, and reading a lot, and leaving my old job, and all that stuff – what all that clear-eyed thinkery reveals also is that, even with the dampers off, one’s head still works in certain ways, and that one of the reasons for applying the dampers is because those ways of working can be pretty fucking annoying.

Stopping seemed easy because I was ready to do so. Talking about the things that had me doing it in the first place… the walled-in rooms, the crumbled ruins discovered beneath the lake, are where the interesting stories are, of course.

Today, though! Strike up the anniversary waltz. It’s officially just over six months since I stopped drinking alcoholic drinks. Halfway to my target of a year off drinking, feeling good about it, break out the cake.

“Anniversaries”, though. As discussed in one of those early pieces, how to signify short-term dates of significance is unclear. Checking back through the booze tag from earlier in the year, I think a week was pebbles. Rocks tend to appear later in the anniversary stakes. Six months being a semiannual return, it’s better than pebbles. Something concrete, perhaps?

L.O. To identify and analyse the components of sonnets

Year 7! Stop this racket! Settle down!
That you’ve arrived late from PE is bad
enough without …you acting like a clown,
Grimaldi. Quiet while I’m speaking, lad.
The objective this lesson is up – DAN!
You need to get your backside on your chair
and planner on your desk, now, please, young man.
The objective, you may have seen, is there…
on the board, Lewis; it’s on the board,
if you were paying attention you’d have seen
it, instead of wasting time we can’t afford
throwing a basketball around with Jean.
Yes, you can pick it up at four pm
from welfare, where I’m sure there’ll be a chat
about why it has ended up with them.
I’m only glad it’s not a cricket bat.
Chewing gum in the bin, Jean, thank – good shot!
Now, can I start this lesson off, or what?

 

Soundtrack for reading (sorry the embed went wrong, will attempt to fix it) :

Blue Drag – The Hot Club Quintet

This week I have been occupied by being back to skool, back to work. It is about equal parts exam countdown (upper years), easy-peel units on poetry (lower school) and mordant commentary with colleagues about where work might be next year. Motivation is sketchy. Sometimes little moments can be a reminder of why teaching is such a lot of fun, but a great deal of it is just the same stupid job territory as every other stupid job.

Depends on how sunny it is, mostly. Maintaining a positive demeanour in the teeth of the things with teeth.

There are multiple projects having nothing to do with earning money with which I would be far happier to engage. However, on a day-to-day basis, they are all just partially-recalled dreams, forgotten in the waking to maintain the project of watching numbers apparently related to my worth appearing and disappearing from my bank account at the same time every month.

Some Gormenghastly ceremony, the meaning of which is long since lost, that participants go through with little enthusiasm.

That’s the teeth. Ach, it’s not all lugubrious pondering and late capitalist mope! Pretty sure I shouldn’t be keeping myself up late writing… Sweeping out the mind before turning in is a highly valuable process, though.

I’ll put the chin-stroking down to a definite post-holiday blue drag. Last week it was all frolicking in familiar precincts. I remembered there was a typewriter somewhere in the house and got that out. The four year old (just picking up on an interest in written letters and numbers) now asking if they can ‘get on with some paperwork’…

lore preschoolsum

I love the faint suggestion of millennial significance, that this is a cipher holding arcane truths about the underpinnings of things.

I also love that it means “today i helped put a tent up in the garden and then did some important paperwork on the typewriter’. Or something different but also fabulous, depending on how the light hits the runes.

Infinite monkeying about! There’s a career goal. Keeping that in mind should see the rest of it fall into place.

Friday night and clearing off a few of the tabs, thought I’d follow Austin Kleon’s plan for sharing a few items.

Lizzo – Juice!

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Just as we have found means of generating useful energy that are better and less damaging than coal, so we need to find means of generating human wellbeing that are better and less damaging than capitalism.

George Monbiot drops the adjectives associated with capitalism, identifying it as the dead and overpriced racist milkshake duck it is.

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Epic Beard Men – Pistol Dave

Elegaic masculinity! Kind of goes with Slots by Dan Panosian, which I just read in the trade collection, from Knaresborough Library.

 

 

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Whatever happens with Leeds United football club this season – ups, and downs, expected – Elland Road, nay, Yorkshire, has become a better place for the presence of Marcelo Bielsa.

Can I ask how you lift yourself, Marcelo? Do you take yourself away from this intense feeling for a while and do something different to lift your spirits?

I think when you receive a blow, to ignore the consequences is not the right path. Pain has a natural process for disappearing and if you want to force this process or hide it, it is meaningless.

 

Not your average football manager!

 

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Austin Kleon, portable routines and “sharing something small every day” (what prompted this).

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Doing a lot of rethinking on the record collection, having read through a New Yorker article on Ralph Ellison, a man and his records (…can’t take it with you man…)

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You can take this with you… the wonderful Ali Spagnola, the song that doesn’t end (works best on phones)

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Just found out it’s “A to Z Blogging Challenge” month.

Totally evaded me. Ah well, can’t be helped!

This (Beyond the Screams, a documentary about the U.S. Latino punk scene and the DIY movement) has been helping me get into changing it up mode:

Easter holidays. Springtime associations of refreshment, rebirth.

Despite an overarching theme of annual rejuvenation – green shoots of recovery and all that – over the Easter weekend the negative implications of return and revisitation sat squat upon the mantelpiece. A chocolate figurine of Cthulhu, glowering.

With a dismal sense of familiarity, I found myself struggling through a four day festival of booze triggers. Classic sweet and sour British combinations of hot weather, no work to endure, personal and social stresses kicking about half-resolved and shoulder-barging good vibes aside, football matches not even remotely going one’s way…

The perfect half-empty cup for topping up with a little something to Set You On and See You Through.

The weather was kind of awesome. In particular, I was jonesing for iced cider – “Two pints of cider. Ice in the cider.” Ah, crisp freshness! The sun meandering into that golden hour glow, refracting through the glasses, the mellow clink and fizz of fresh cubes dropped in.

Then of course a turn to paschal red wine for sorrow and mournful contemplation as the weekend pressed on, and a heaviness accumulated in the air, suggesting rain and thunder were needed if not quite imminent.

It wasn’t just the football. For me, considering the combination of contributory factors, there’d been a fair bit of build up. It was bound to take a week or so of not having work to take one’s mind off things to filter through. Family things… and I need to get a new job, so there’s all sorts of associated existential angst, and blah, blah, blah – how about a beer?

Because that was another element that recurred, a familiar odour in among the cocoa wafts and barbecue scents and fresh mowed grass, generating instant recall. The little voice questioning what business I had in not drinking, in denying the urge to fest and to commiserate with such a true and tested companion.

Savour the solace! Trust it. Let it soothe and slake your thirst. Let it slip down and softly caress away those cares and strifes…

Kind of Kaa in The Jungle Book? Only I was on to it, so the voice modulated into sounding more like Sylvester the cat, thuth lothing itth efficathy.

So, no. Every excuse I was making for myself to have at it and recommence boozing was allowed to express itself, then given a polite yet firm nod of acknowledgement before being shooed away.

I mean, yes, I seemed to have eaten my weight in sugary treats… but even that ebbed over Monday, as with a final baleful glance ever-waiting dread Cthulhu slunk off in search of someone else to pester, leaving a trail of chocolatey footprints.

What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise.

Today I made it to 72 days off boozing, anyway. A number of cosmic significance! Re-set.